Britain’s fresh food supplies are coming under increasing threat, as lorry loads of fruit and vegetables are being destroyed when illegal immigrants are found hiding within them. Last month British Border Officers found 3,000 stowaways hiding on trucks crossing the channel, causing the food industry to become “increasingly worried”.
Illegal migrants, determined to hitch a ride across the channel, often sneak into lorries carrying an array of goods, sometimes as far away as Spain. However, if they are found within a lorry carrying fresh produce the foodstuffs are deemed “contaminated”, and must be destroyed, the Daily Mail has reported.
It is understood that, over the Christmas period, a large quantity of the food was destined for British supermarkets. Although it is not clear exactly how much, the quantity has caused the food industry to become increasingly concerned, prompting Home Secretary Theresa May to agree to hold an urgent meeting with food retailers to address the problem.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms May confirmed that her officials were aware of the issue, and said “We are looking to introduce improved ability to identify people who are within lorries when they pass through our controls in Calais. But obviously the problem is often people are getting into the lorries further afield, which even if you find them at Calais the load is still considered to have been damaged and contaminated.”
Meanwhile Sir James Paice, an ex-agriculture minister with long-established contacts in the food industry, said: “There’s ample evidence now that many illegal immigrants are getting into lorries as far afield as Spain, particularly lorries bringing fresh food into this country, which means the whole load is condemned. Our retail sector is now increasingly worried about fresh food supplies.”
There are concerns that if the problem persists, food prices will have to rise to cover the cost of scrapped produce. Last month, using an array of techniques including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors, scanners and visual searches, British border control detained 3,000 illegal immigrants.
However, there appears to be a problem with ‘repeat offending’ – 420 of the 3,000 had been previously caught and refused entry, causing Member of Parliament Tim Loughton to question whether the “real problem” was that, “when potential migrants are apprehended, the French police take them two miles outside town and release them without even taking their fingerprints, so they can come and do it all over again”.